My search for a perfect all-around daily use bag is a legendary quest, at least in my own mind. I used to carry sling bags like the Vertx Commuter, then gravitated towards your typical ruck or backpack; dual shoulders straps, and all the volume a guy could want. Then I realized I was lugging around all together too much crap.
Covering a typical event as a photographer, I have used large volume packs north of 33L to carry lenses, audio gear, accessories and clothing, while strapping on monopods, hydroflasks, drybags and hats. Prepare for everything and want for nothing, right? Fast forward a few years and I swear I’ve lost an inch or so in height from the added weight.
Lately I’ve been looking at re-utilizing the quintessential messenger bag. With enough room for a laptop, a camera with a lens, and some essential gear like a med kit, flashlight and chapstick, a messenger bag is usually a good run-and-gun option. So when Grey Ghost Gear sent me their new “Wanderer” bag to check out, it was like a love letter to my aching back.
For nearly two decades in the corporate world I tried all manner of briefcase bags, messenger bags and the like. By far, my favorite was a no-frills $30 bag I got about fifteen years ago at the Gap that was elegant in its simplicity. The Wanderer updates all of the things I loved about that messenger bag, and adds the versatility and styling it was lacking.
The first obvious styling element is the waxed canvas material. My green bag with black stitching and accents like the waterproof zippers is almost gorgeous cosmetically. Even my girlfriend, another videographer with a penchant for messenger camera bags, instantly noticed the good looks. The large top flap is held to the body with strong magnetic snaps. This is an immediate and huge improvement over buckle systems when it comes to speedy access.
The shoulder strap is made of seatbelt material and is wide enough to be comfortable without a shoulder pad. Two zippered pockets on the front flap are perfect for storing small items like a cell phone, earbuds, or knife.
At each end is a vertical pocket, one zippered, one without. The zippered pocket expands to hold a large waterbottle. The opposite end is a plain old pouch. In it I typically carry a Pocket Dark Jr. from Dark Angel Medical.
The interior is divided into two sections with a large cavernous space in the rear, and a slimline unpadded laptop sleeve towards the front. With a set of pockets on the front face of the bag, and the addition of the flap, the laptop is protected decently well. I was able to fit a 15” MacBook Pro without a problem. My only gripe with the laptop portion positioned in the front of the bag is that when the rest of the bag is stuffed the laptop is forced outwards, making it difficult for the top flap magnets to properly close the bag.
Across the laptop pocket and over the larger interior portion, there is also a cinch strap with a buckle to really ratchet down the contents. My old beloved Gap bag did not have a similar system and I was glad to see included here. I typically use Space Bags when I travel just to keep clothing as compressed as possible. In a medium Space Bag I fit a pair of pants, undergarments, socks, a few t-shirts, and a button-down. Compressed, it fit very well in The Wanderer’s roomy rear section. On top of that I added my toiletries, a book, MSA Sordin earpro, a Magpul DAKA pouch for my pipe and tobacco, a hat, and an Arc’Teryx Atom hoodie. It holds a lot.
The front quick access pockets held a laptop power adaptor, business cards, med kit, pens, beardcomb, sharpies – essentially every little item that used to gather in the bottom of my ruck.
The back of the bag has a zippered compartment that can be used to store a handgun or any weapon if you choose to carry off body (pictured here is a Gen 3 Glock 17 in a Raven Concealment Systems Eidolon holster). This rear stash pocket is a concept that was very well executed by Vertx, but I really like the smaller, more discreet version on this bag. Admittedly, it is not as quickly accessible on the Wanderer as the Vertx. The interior of this pocket has a loop field if you like to use Velcro pouches or accessories. I used it for travel documents since airlines tend to frown upon civilians carrying firearms on flights.
Perhaps the best thing about this bag is that it is as un-tactical as you can get. The industry is certainly moving away from tacticool fashion that has to #molleallthethings and is catering to a much more discreet, fashion conscious daily carry lifestyle. Grey Ghost Gear captures the essence of this trend in the Wanderer.
After a month or two using this bag daily, I am already loving it. It forces me to pack lighter, concentrate on essential gear, but is forgiving enough when I want to pack just a few more things inside. Even stuffed to the gills, it fits cleanly in the underseat storage of a Delta regional jet.
I’m sure that my Quixotic search for the perfect bag will continue, but for now, the Wanderer has leapt to the front of my closet.